The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly in Cable News Network v. Donald J. Trump ordering the White House to restore the press pass of reporter Jim Acosta has been hailed as a victory not only for CNN but for the entire press and the cause of journalism. But Kelly’s ruling was just the first step in what might be a long, hard-fought case. And in the end, the result might not be happy for reporters and the news organizations that employ them.
The transcript of the November 16 court session in which Kelly delivered his oral ruling was released in group of court papers on Monday. Kelly declared that the White House could not eject Acosta without first providing him due process — specifically, notice of the revocation of his press pass, a chance for Acosta to respond, and a written decision.
In short, the judge said to the White House: You can’t throw out a reporter without going through a process. But if you go through a process — which you, the White House, can design — then you can throw the reporter out. In the end, it could be that Kelly’s ruling will make it easier for the White House to oust reporters in the future — and to make the decision stick.